PORTLAND – The golfer has to make the putt. The baseball closer needs to record the save. And in basketball, the team in the lead needs to finish the game.

“You’ve got to be able to finish out games,” said Austin Toros Coach Brad Jones.

His team couldn’t do it Saturday night as the Maine Red Claws came back to beat the Toros 93-88 before another sellout of 3,045 at the Portland Expo.

The teams split two games to open the NBA Development League season, with Austin winning the opener Friday night.

On Saturday, guard Jamar Smith led Maine with 25 points (5 of 6 3-pointers), guard Champ Oguchi added 21 points and forward Paul Harris pulled down 14 rebounds.

After leading 49-42 at halftime, the Red Claws were dragging in the third quarter and looked done.

Austin pushed the ball to take a 70-63 lead.

“We ran out of gas,” Red Claws Coach Austin Ainge said. “We had some turnovers and it got a little sloppy there.

“I had to use some timeouts in the fourth quarter just to get us rest. And luckily we turned it on in the fourth.”

Maine was without guard Mario West, who suffered a hamstring injury Friday night, and had a limping Magnum Rolle playing center.

Ainge was forced to play other players more, including Oguchi, notching 42 minutes.

“It was pretty tiring,” Oguchi said.

“We had some key guys go down and our bench did a great job of providing us energy.”

But the Red Claws were able to come back because they made the pivotal shots.

Down 76-75, Oguchi gave Maine the lead for good with a 3-pointer and a 78-76 advantage with 5:31 to go.

With 2:01 left, Tiny Gallon rebounded an Oguchi miss and got the ball to Eugene Spates. He scored and was fouled on his spin move and jumper. His free throw made it 86-80.

“The difference between last night and tonight was that they made the plays in the fourth quarter and we didn’t,” Jones said.

Austin closed to 86-84 and with the shot clock winding down, Oguchi drove through two defenders, scored, drew the foul and hit the free throw for an 89-84 lead with 56 seconds left.

“Champ is one of those guys that if you don’t watch him close, you think he’s just a shooter,” Ainge said.

“But he’s got some explosive athleticism.”

The Toros closed again to 89-86 and had the ball. Austin missed a drive, rebounded, missed a layup, rebounded, missed a 3-pointer and rebounded again.

On Austin’s fourth miss of the possession, it looked like the Toros got the ball again, but Smith tipped the ball out of Austin hands to Oguchi.

“They’re a very good offensive rebounding team,” Oguchi said. “Coach stressed that the guards had to get in there and rebound.”

Oguchi passed back to Smith, who was fouled. His two free throws made it 91-86 with nine seconds left.

“We were down and rallied and outscored them 30-18 in the fourth quarter,” Ainge said.

“I’m proud of my guys. We were tired and banged up. We gutted one.”

While the Red Claws were outrebounded 49-41, they took care of the ball better (19 turnovers to Austin’s 25), and hit 8 of 17 3-pointers.

Ainge praised the effort of Smith, who came off the bench to play almost 36 minutes, a lot of it at point guard.

“I liked what I saw from him tonight at point guard,” Ainge said. “I loved his defense and shot-making.”

Just don’t ask Smith to play today.

“We’re tired,” Smith said. “I think everybody is feeling it. We’ll get a day off (today) and we’re looking forward to that.”

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at:

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.